Reliance is reportedly in the final stages of negotiations to acquire Disney’s business in India. This move is part of Mukesh Ambani’s broader strategy to expand his empire, which encompasses sectors ranging from oil to telecommunications, into the realms of digital and television assets.
Disney has valued its Indian business at approximately $10 billion, while Reliance evaluates the assets at a slightly lower range, between $7 billion and $8 billion. According to a recent report by Bloomberg News on Monday, the deal could be formally announced as early as next month.
Reliance issued an earlier statement acknowledging its constant assessment of potential acquisitions.
Back in 2019, Disney made a significant move by acquiring 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets for a staggering $71.3 billion. This acquisition was pivotal in Disney’s global expansion into streaming services, granting it the broadcast and streaming rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches, a multitude of multilingual TV channels, and a stake in a Bollywood film production company. At the time of acquisition, Star India’s Hotstar boasted around 150 million monthly active users.
While Hotstar initially dominated the Indian video streaming landscape for several quarters, its popularity has waned. This is due to the rise of Reliance-backed Viacom18, which secured a five-year deal worth about $3 billion for the streaming rights to IPL cricket matches. Disney, on the other hand, spent $3 billion for the same five-year rights but for television broadcasting.
In recent years, Reliance has been actively recruiting top industry leaders and engineering talent to enhance its JioCinema platform. The company has also enriched its on-demand streaming service with premium content from HBO and NBC.
Disney’s Hotstar has seen a loss of approximately 20 million subscribers this year as consumers have flocked to JioCinema to watch IPL matches. In an effort to regain its viewers, Hotstar is currently offering the ongoing cricket World Cup to mobile viewers at no cost.
This strategy aims to recapture customers and regain the lead in the global on-demand video streaming arena. Recently, Hotstar broke its own record when its streaming app attracted 35 million concurrent viewers during a cricket match. This record was surpassed on a subsequent occasion during a game between India and New Zealand, with concurrent viewers reaching 43 million.